Two Figures (Public Art), Paddington Basin

The public art called ‘Two figures’, also called ‘Walking Man and Standing Man’, are situated beside the Paddington Arm in the area now called Paddington Central. The figures are probably life-size or possibly a little larger and have a great realism to their appearance and the way that they are portrayed.

The sculpture by Sean Henry shows two figures set apart by several metres, suggesting an unseen narrative. The two large bronze figures have their surfaces painted in oil to convey natural and living figures, a combined technique which revives the tradition of multicolour sculpture, prevalent within ancient sculpture through to the Renaissance period in Europe.

Standing near the side of the canal at Paddington Central, Sean Henry’s sculpture – which he calls ‘Two Figures (Meeting Place)’ – was commissioned for that very space in 2003. Familiar with the Westway and the well-used pedestrian routes due to the nearby location of his then studio, Henry placed the works to provide a link between Little Venice and Paddington Station.

In an interview given by Sean Henry, he said “I decided to create a work in which two figures could stand together as if about to meet whilst walking along a pathway. I chose the location near Westway and hoped it would resonate with people’s day-to-day life in the then very new Paddington Central development.” When asked if there was any dialogue between them he replied ”Yes, there’s a connection between the two and a sense of potential dialogue. You can see that they are about to meet – the standing figure is waiting, alert, while the walking figure remains locked in his own movement and train of thought, he’s yet to look up and realise there’s someone else there.”

Sean Henry sometimes makes figures that are as large as real people or even larger but he also makes figures that are only six to eight inches high. Regardless of the size, they are all remarkably life-like and his attention to detail is quite remarkable. In the case of the two figures at Paddington, they are so true to life that, with other people standing around, if you came upon them for the first time, you could well miss the fact that they were two statues situated among other real people.

Sean Henry’s sculptures are modelled in clay before being painted by the artist, using oil and other paints, on either a cast bronze or ceramic surface. Henry studied in Farnham and Bristol during the 1980s before undertaking a role as Visiting Artist at the University of California. His first solo exhibition was in London in 1988 and he has since gone on to exhibit his work widely in both solo and group exhibitions throughout the UK, USA, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Italy, Australia, Greece and Switzerland. Henry was awarded the prestigious Villiers David Prize in 1998.


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